June 29, 2010
An anxious nation awaits. Yes, it’s Labour leadership contest time—in which all the thoroughly untarnished candidates from this highly responsible party vie to inherit the glorious mantle let fall by that great statesman and patriot, “Cincinnatus” Gordon Brown.
There are four ex-ministers in the lists. Of these valued veterans, former Foreign Secretary David Miliband is favorite amongst the turf accountant fraternity. Like us all, the bookies clearly cannot wait to see him become “a great unifying force on all shades of centre left opinion in this country”—so obviously what the country needs after 13 years of centre left government.
The BBC tells us that David’s “intellectual ability is widely admired” (although not by whom). As Foreign Secretary, he presided over such triumphs as Iraq and Afghanistan and the devastating chiding of Russia over South Ossetia, after which the crushed Russian foreign minister asked him, “Who are you to f***ing lecture me?”
David has other qualities. According to the Daily Telegraph‘s Bryony Gordon, writing last April, he has a “charming boyishness that appeals to one’s maternal side…he always appears so handsome…when I watched him on Question Time…it was a bit like porn.” That fine judge of men Hilary Clinton is equally smitten, saying in 2009 that she found our hero “vibrant, vital, attractive, smart.” There are two Facebook groups called “David Miliband is HOT,” one with 91 and one with 252 connoisseurs of male attractiveness.
Operating against these innumerable pluses, however, are undoubted minuses—a reputation for prevarication and poor presentation, being disliked by the left, being liked by Peter Mandelson, and worst of all what the Independent of June 10 described as “a little rabbity tuft of hair going up in front”.
As part of his unifying mission, David will need to start with his own family, because sibling Ed is also standing for the coveted post. David maintains that “brotherly love will survive,” but progressive prognosticators are concerned about a “Cain and Abel struggle” between “the Milkiband Kids.” Again according to the ever-insightful Independent, Ed is “Cuter than David…Gonk to his brother’s Geek.” Against these obvious merits must be placed his authorship of the 2010 Labour manifesto, and being liked by Neil Kinnock.
Next is another Ed, Balls (insert punctuation where appropriate) who, quoth the Independent, “passionately wants to win”. Sadly, Ed would appear to be almost the only person who wants him to win. He will be damaged by his reputation for bullying and what Alistair Campbell called his “awful” strategies and his “drivel” at meetings.
Next is Andy Burnham, who is, says the BBC, “affable…[but] his youthful appearance and lack of wide experience” will count against him. His chief asset is that he is the least unpopular candidate—but this may be because no one knows who he is.
He is the last of the “male, pale and stale” contenders (to quote the Guardian of June 9). But mercifully there is a female, sun-kissed, fresh alternative, in the generous shape of Diane Abbott, Britain’s first black woman MP and a voluble commentator. She has been especially opposed to selective schooling—for other people. She attended Harrow grammar school, then Cambridge. She later sent her son to a £10,000 per annum private school, which she admitted was “intellectually incoherent” But then, as she explained, non-West Indians “wouldn”t understand”. This ultimate outsider has also been a civil liberties campaigner and TV reporter—despite being what the Independent termed “a bit bonkers on the box”. One can only imagine what heights she might have attained had she not been a black woman!
Her candidacy has energized the proletarian commentariat, with the Indie‘s Simon Carr calling her on June 11 “The gatecrasher who can save the party,” while the ever-reliable Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is half in love with the “strong, dark mahogany face” of the “uppity” Abbott who will, she hopes, “lead the resistance” to the despicable Tories.
It is now up to Labour supporters to make the historic choice, to be announced in September. The rest of us can only wait, and hope they select the leader they so richly deserve.